Here’s what Lewis and Valtteri will be fiddling with during 320km/h dices this season
If either of the Mercedes-AMG F1 drivers crash this year, and lob their detachable steering wheel out of the car in frustration, then spare a thought for the intricate piece of space-age equipment that’s just been petulantly wanged into the gravel.
Here’s the 2019-spec steering wheel for the Mercedes-AMG W10 EQ Power+. Complicated name, complicated car, very complicated steering wheel. It’s not even a wheel, really, is it? It’s more of a Nintendo Switch with more knobs and switches.
There are 25 toggles and controls, in fact, not including the rear-mounted gearshift and clutch paddles. Five of ‘em manage the brake settings: the driver can shift the balance from the front to the rear or vice versa, to optimise the brake balance for an individual corner, fiddle with engine braking and so on. It’s not simply a matter of pushing the pedal these days…
Three switches control the differential. Each driver can meddle with torque transfer between the rear wheels – for the entry, the apex and the exit of a corner.
There’s a volume button for turning up the voice of the engineer if it’s too loud to hear the strategy chat. We presume Kimi Räikkönen replaces this switch with a mute button.
A family of 15 LEDs form the shift lights that warn the driver when it’s time to change gear, before a very expensive 900bhp V6 detonates. It’s all very bespoke, from the colours and button layouts to the unique hand grips. Only the screen and circuit board are shared between all F1 steering wheels, so the FIA can keep tabs on secret settings. And stop the drivers installing Snapchat on their steering wheel.
Made from carbonfibre (obviously), fibreglass, copper and titanium, with silicone handgrips, each wheel takes about 80 hours to make and costs in the region of £50,000-£80,000, according to recent estimates. Each driver gets three of four over the course of a season.
Or more, if they chuck them into the dirt after spinning off.
STORY Ollie Kew